Think Big — Go Ahead.


There are only two days left of Randall Grahm’s (Bonny Doon Vineyard) crowdfunding campaign for his new, incredible, vineyard Popelouchum. Several great perks remain, including the unique opportunity to sit at the table and dine with Randall and New York Times food writer Mark Bittman as they discuss Randall’s most audacious plan yet – to create a true California terroir-driven wine.

It will surely be an amazing meeting of the minds. Over the years, we’ve never missed an opportunity to hear Randall’s intellectually rigorous flights of fancy. We’re equally eager to spend time with our newer friend, the immensely insightful and knowledgeable journalist Mark Bittman. And we’re thrilled to host an intimate dinner with both of them at Oliveto.

Popelouchum is a vineyard in San Juan Bautista that’s trying to take California terroir-driven winemaking into its next phase. To listen to Grahm speak about it- or write about it,  as he does, prodigiously, on his blog – the undertaking is immense, with wide-ranging considerations that are at once terrestrial and poetic.

With Popelouchum, he hopes to breed new grape varieties by planting them by seed (as opposed to cloning). The goals of his breeding plan are many. We’ve teased out a few for you:

  • To discover new grape varieties that reveal the unique characteristics of his land. Instead of mimicking Burgundy in its traditions and its grapes, Grahm hopes to discover a uniquely Californian wine – just as haunting as the Burgundies, and with its own character, nuances, and enchantments.
  • To discover new varieties that are “less needful of heroic levels of intervention”, and that require less water. (Such grapes could have “greater utility in a warmer, drier world”.)

To be privy to Grahm’s dreams makes one’s head swim in the most pleasant way. And to be able to help in making the dreams a reality, will make such swimming an even greater delight.

We think Popelouchum is a profoundly worthwhile endeavor, and we hope many will get into it. In support, we are also offering a free pizza downstairs in the Cafe if you bring us a receipt of your contribution of $25 or more to Randall’s extraordinary project.

To take part, read more here.

2017-09-12T15:46:53-07:00August 20th, 2015|California, Coming up...|0 Comments

Randall Grahm’s Visionary Project


Grahm planting some of the first grapes at Popelouchum.


Visit Randall Grahm’s Restaurant Row and make something happen.

Our friend Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard has launched a project, a “life’s work” kind of project, to create an original vineyard that in every way mines the attributes of place.

Hearing a winemaker speak of terroir has become meaningless. But that doesn’t mean that terroir is without meaning.  Randall’s search for terroir is brilliant, far-reaching, and though hard to imagine, makes you want to imagine.  The vineyard is being built at his new property in San Juan Bautista, and is called Popelouchum.

Read about it here, and consider supporting it.  It is so rare to have the opportunity to support something actually original. There are perks involved.  Note Randall’s very fine Restaurant Row.


Restaurant_Row_Grid 8.3.15 FOUR ONLY (1)


2017-09-12T15:46:53-07:00August 5th, 2015|California, Coming up..., Events|0 Comments

Dinner with Randall Grahm and 14 of His Wines

Dinner With Randall Grahm
and 14 of His Wines

– A Rare Evening –

What’s Doon is Doon:
A Comprehensive Consideration of the Celestial and Terrestrial Oeuvre of Randall Grahm
(Along with a Pretty Spectacular Meal)
Randall Grahm’s Greatest Adventure
[from a 2009 visit]
Monday, June 10, 2013 at 6:30 pm
Call 510-547-5356 for reservations
When Oliveto sommelier Esteban Brunello went to a Bonny Doon Vineyard wine tasting a couple months back, he tasted all of Randall Grahm’s currently available wines and returned astounded. He thought all of them — some twenty different wines — uniquely good. It’s unusual enough for a small independent producer to offer that many wines, but that they were all, every one of them, estimable, doesn’t happen.

We’ve known Randall for quite some time: the Rhone Ranger of old, deeply devoted to terroir as the source of a wine’s character, leader and practitioner of a movement for transparency in wine labels, advocate of the screwcap closure, lover of obscure Italian grape varieties, biodynamic farmer with dry-farming leanings, the man who would plant grape vines from seed and plant a vineyard that looked more like a garden (“promiscuous culture,” in the vernacular). He is an original thinker, a charming, witty, and gentle person.

Randall, for all his renown and knowledge of wine’s most important topics, has said he’d really just like to be known as someone who makes really good wine. So, after Esteban’s pronouncement, we decided that, while presenting a wine dinner with 14 different wines would be challenging, we could make it fresh, fun, unpretentious, and, most important, about delicious wine.
So, here’s the evening we imagine:
One seating at 6:30 pm, in casual, family-style tables of twelve.
Randall will chat about:
Biodynamics, the painful beauty of vins de terroir, his very ambitious plans to plant a truly sustainable, genetically heterodox, dry-farmed vineyard. He will talk about the esoteric mysteries of the Tantric élevage of wines (with a special geeky sidebar on wine electrochemistry), and will say something or three about the wines he is presenting.
6 courses from Chef Jonah, matching (as best we can) a very large array of wines:
(Sparkling Riesling as apéritif)
’04 Le Cigare Blanc
’01 Le Cigare Volant
’05 Le Cigare Volant
’06 Nebbiolo
’07 Nebbiolo
Price: $125
plus tax and gratuity
Menu to follow
Call (510) 547-5356 for reservations
Dinner is June 10, 2013
Please note there will be one seating at 6:30 pm

Randall Grahm Is On A Mission

I would suggest that greatness in wine may well come from a human being’s accidentally discovering a uniquely special site and having the wit to try not to guide things overmuch, and to be strong enough to allow Nature to do Her thing. Perhaps the point may be that if terroir’s signal is strong enough, the particular grape variety or varieties grown in a vineyard—assuming they are mas o menoswithin range of suitability—just might not matter so much, or even at all.” — Randall Grahm

2017-09-12T15:48:33-07:00November 1st, 2010|California, Wine Journal, Wine Makers|0 Comments

Tasting Notes: Whole Hog 2010


by Chris Ryerson

February 3 – February 6


Chenin Blanc, Brut, Foreau, Vouvray, France NV
Structured and complex sparkling Chenin Blanc form one of the masters of the Loire.  Fresh lemon and nectarine flavors intermingle with brioche and a smoky minerality.


Riesling, “Tradition,” Kuentz-Bas, Alsace, France 2007
Light-bodied, dry Riesling with fresh, green notes of honeydew melon and lime zest backed by intense minerality.

Kerner, Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige, Italy 2008 
Gorgeous high-elevation, aromatic white from an abbey of Augustinian monks founded in 1142. Soaring aromas of peach pit, ripe Anjou pear and honeysuckle greet you on the nose and carry seamlessly through the finish.

Friulano, Scarpetta, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy 2007
Friulano, a slightly less aromatic relative of Sauvignon Blanc, is the quintessential white grape of Friuli. Vibrant acidity and green-tinged fruits with a hint of bitter almond to add complexity.

Sylvaner, Garlider, Alto-Adige, Italy 2006
A richer-style white taken quite seriously in the northern reaches of Italy, this Sylvaner combines hints of apricot, apple skin, and subtle tropical notes with a refreshing finishing acidity.

Chardonnay, “Les Tâches,” Robert-Denogent, Macon-Fuissé, France 2006
Ripe, luscious apple and pear fruit with understated spicy oak notes.

Roussanne, “Saralee’s Vineyard,” Coterie Cellars, Russian River Valley, California 2007
Fragrant white with enticing aromas of apricot and delicate floral notes. These are an entry point to earthier elements of herbal tea and marzipan on the palate with a medium-long, slightly mineral finish.

Schiava, “Elda,” Weingut Nusserhof, Südtiroler, Italy 2008
Light to medium-bodied with fresh grapey aromas contrasted by more earthy raspberry, dried plum, and smoky notes.

Nerello Mascalese, Di Giovanna, Sicilia, Italy 2007
Medium-bodied with enticing raspberry, red cherry, rose petal and baking spice notes backed by firm, dry tannins heading into the finish.

Pinot Noir, Big Table Farm, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2008
Young, sleek, vibrant Pinot Noir from a tiny producer in Oregon. Bright red cherry and plum complimented by a subtle floral component and just a touch of new oak.

Aglianico del Vulture, Grifalco, Basilicata, Italy 2005
Dark black cherry fruit, firm tannins, and a complex amalgam of mint, herbs, and dried tobacco make this a fascinating pair for many of the richer dishes on the menu.

Sangiovese, “Rancia,” Fèlsina, Chianti Classico Riserva, Italy 2005
A lovely, approachable example of one of Tuscany’s iconic wines, the 2005 Rancia has a lovely perfumed core of red currant fruit, spice and leather notes intermingled with hints of toasted oak and cedar.

Nebbiolo d’Alba, “Valmaggione,” Brovia, Piemonte, Italy 2005
Possessing a deft combination of power and elegant nuance, Brovia’s Nebbiolo offers subtle red cherry and plum fruit of great purity along with complex floral and earthy notes. Order early and decant!

Grenache, “Cuvée Classique,” Domaine Monpertuis, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France 2007
This classic “old-school” Châteauneuf-du-Pape delivers everything you could hope for: a dense mix of brambly red and dusty black fruits, dried herbs, licorice, leather and spice notes. Accessible right out of the bottle, but will open and gain complexity throughout your dinner.


Barbaresco, “Sori Paitin,” Paitin, Piemonte, Italy 1990

Bonny Doon – Profile

Bonny Doon Vineyards was started in the Santa Cruz Mountains by Randall Graham in 1983 after he completed his degree in Plant Sciences at the University of California at Davis. Although his initial passion/obsession was to create the “Great American Pinot Noir,” he quickly gained notoriety for his pioneering use of Rhône varietals in California. The original Bonny Doon Estate Vineyard was planted to Syrah, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier and in 1986 he released the inaugural (1984) vintage of “Le Cigare Volant,” his iconic blend modeled after the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

In the late 1980s, Bonny Doon made another pioneering move and planted its “Ca’ del Solo” vineyard in Monterey County to Italian varietals. After the Santa Cruz Mountains estate vineyards were destroyed by Pierce’s disease in 1994, Bonny Doon began a program of purchasing fruit from various growers in California, Oregon, and Europe; developed several wildly popular brands; and expanded rapidly – at its peak producing somewhere in the range of 450,000 cases.

Starting in 2006, Randall decided he needed to move Bonny Doon in a new direction in an attempt to become more congruent with his deepest ideals. He sold Bonny Doon’s biggest brands as well as the winery and tasting room. The winery has relocated to SantaCruz, and Randall has begun acquiring various parcels of land that he believes can be dry-farmed and give him the potential to produce true a true vin de terroir.

Randall Graham is variously described as a genius, wine’s bad boy, compulsive punster, dreamer, provocateur and the Willy Wonka of the wine world. We find him also to be generous, endlessly interesting, totally original and a good friend. And, while he has already accomplished great things in his life, he is now beginning his greatest adventure, drawing together his discovery of biodynamic farming practices, his commitment to the demystification of winemaking and to transparent business practices, particularly in the realm of ingredient labeling.

2017-09-12T15:48:51-07:00December 12th, 2009|California, Wine Makers|0 Comments
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